THE VIRGIN PARADISE THAT IS LAKE MBURO NATIONAL GAME PARK
It is not every day that one can drive to a game park in Uganda in about three hours from Kampala.
Lake Mburo National Game Park in Kiruhura district, only 50km from fast growing town of Mbarara, do you find one of Uganda’s best hidden animal “planet”.
Hidden should not be the word, but, for the park that is closest to the capital city, between Masaka and Mbarara towns, this wild haven should have been one of the most celebrated.
I was attracted to visit this park after 15 Rothschild giraffes were moved there mid last year.
And when last December holidays I made a move to see for myself why this animals are said to be flourishing in their new home, I was really wowed.
Lake Mburo national park goes by the nickname the “whispers of the wild”.
It is an animal kingdom like no other in the country – where you start seeing wildlife even before you reach the game park gate.
It is here that you find the biggest herds of zebras in Uganda together with populations of impala, eland, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck, leopard, hippo, hyenas, topi and redbuck.
And guess what – Lake Mburo is the closest to the Ugandan capital. You basically cruise 253km to the park on one of the best roads in the country. You cannot compare Mburo distance to Queen Elizabeth which is 389km, Murchison falls (305km) and Bwindi (512km).
The giraffes have enough food in the diverse acacia varieties in this part of the country.“Acacia is good for giraffes, as well as elephants.
It is at night that the nickname “Whispers of the Wild” makes sense. In this darkness of the night, you are able to see nocturnal at work, and the rest of the animals hiding away from the threats of the jungle.
“It is very easy to spot animals in the night,” he tells me, “When light flashes into an animal’s eye, they flashback.”
When you flash into a group of animals in the night, you might think you are looking at stars on the dark sky. You can also tell herbivorous from carnivorous.
The experienced guide intimates that, “Grass eaters have green eyes, and meat eaters have red eyes.” As we drove from one track to another, I could tell dangerous animals from peaceful ones. The antelopes, zebras and warthogs are common sight, they gather in herds where they find safety in numbers.
The animals however don’t know boundaries, they still go to private ranches, some of them, and particularly dangerous ones like the female lioness lost its life.
“Some locals appreciate the game park, and don’t mind the animals. They call us when dangerous ones evade them,” my guide offers, before he narrates how he found a python eating an impala and recorded the entire process on camera.
The night drive ended without me seeing a leopard, lion or any of the four male and 11 female giraffes.
Lake Mburo national park occupies several rolling hills, grassy valleys, acacia forest and surrounded by lakes. At the heart of the park is Lake Mburo which forms part of the wetland systems together with 13 other lakes. Five are within the park, the rest are outside. The famous River Rwizi that is said to be drying up is part of this ecosystem which later drain into Lake Victoria.
The park is also neighbours with Lyantonde, Mbarara, Isingiro, Ibanda and Rakai districts.
The high populations surrounding the park, prevented some animals species such as elephants from returning to the park. He tells me that elephants are stuck in northern Tanzania and cannot return to the park due to people living between their home now and Lake Mburo.
“Even giraffes, were once here. That is why we brought them back. With the return of the giraffe, I am hopeful other animals will one day come back,” he says as we drive on top of Kazuma hill.
It is from this hill that we could see most of the park. You can see Nakivale in Isingiro where refugees from DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi have settled. You can see lakes Mburo, Kigambira, Kibikwa, Kazuma and Bwara.
“Watch out for buffalos, they are dangerous.From the hills, we drive towards the eland track, the shy antelope.
It is the track the giraffes have been most sighted. It is coming to 3pm, however and getting late. I have seen many animals, but, no giraffe.
“The giraffes have been here several times. They are still accustoming with the park, and learning new places,” the guide explains.
“All are in good shape. Actually, they look healthier than they came.